I have been into finding cheap flights for years. Last year I got into racking up points for (virtually) free travels. I am happy to report that I have outdone myself: USA (California, Nevada, Utah), Iceland, UK, Morocco, Italy, Switzerland, Israel, Poland, France, Brazil (twice + business class), Argentina, Cuba, Hawaii, and Mexico. All of that for merely $1k spent on flights and car rentals. Here’s how.
Below I list some of my travels (or bookings) done within the last year. They exemplify that traveling may indeed be very cheap. I hope you’ll find it instructional and encouraging. Each trip is followed by the number of flights booked, (optional) car rentals, the amount of redeemed points, and cash spent during redeeming the rewards or on flight bookings. Well, the rewards are almost free, as you still have to pay some taxes.
At the end of the post, I explain how I collected all the points and I estimate their face value. I hope you’ll find it convincing and the post will encourage you to try out travel rewards. My previous blog post describes how I got into collecting the points.
September 2015: Labor Day Weekend in Northern California, USA (2 flights, 1 car, 40k points + $11.20)
Exploring San Francisco, wine tasting in Napa Valley, driving along the Pacific Highway, and visiting Yellowstone National Park.
Boston -> San Francisco (12.5k points + $5.60)
San Francisco -> Boston (12.5k points + $5.60)
Ford Mustang (15k points + $20)
November 2015: Thanksgiving in Brazil and Argentina (6 flights, 102.5k points + $77.40)
Meeting friends and partying in Sao Paulo, visiting the wonderful waterfalls Foz do Iguacu (Brazilian and Argentinian sides), stopping by Brasilia to check out the unique architecture, partying in Natal during Carnatal.
Boston -> Sao Paulo (30k points + $5.60)
Sao Paulo -> Foz do Iquacu (10k points + $5.60)
Foz do Iguacu -> Brasilia (10k points + $5.60)
Brasilia -> Natal (10k points + $5.60)
Natal -> Sao Paulo (12.5k points + $5.60)
Sao Paulo -> Boston (30k points + $49.40)
April 2016: Long weekend in California and Nevada, USA (2 flights, 12.5k points + $5.60)
Visiting national parks (Death Valley, Sequoia Park, Yosemite), and checking out few cities (Las Vegas, Fresno, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Hollywood). I scored a totally free one-way flight from Los Angeles to Boston. How? I purchased the flight using gift cards that got reimbursed through Amex Airline Fee Credit program.
Boston -> Los Angeles (12.5k points + $5.60)
Los Angeles -> Boston (0 points + $0.00)
May 2016: Euro-Afro-Asia-trip in Iceland, UK, Morocco, Italy, Switzerland, Israel, Poland, France (9 flights, 0 points + $470)
Blue lagoon in Iceland, unique culture and architecture of Morocco, amazing mountains in Italy and Switzerland, culture, nature, and history of Israel, friends and family in Poland, a glass of wine in Paris. I was especially impressed by Switzerland and Israel. Interestingly, I didn’t use any points during this trip. The flights were simply too cheap to waste the points.
Boston -> Reykjavik -> Bristol (0 points + $220)
Bristol -> Marrakesh (0 points + $30)
Marrakesh -> Milan (0 points + $20)
Milan -> Tel Aviv (0 points + $30)
Tel Aviv -> Warsaw (0 points + $30)
Warsaw -> Paris (0 points + $20)
Paris -> Reykjavik -> Boston (0 points + $120)
September 2016: Labor Day in Nevada and Utah, USA (2 flights, 2 cars, 56.5k points + $71.20)
Attending Corvette owner’s driving school, visiting national parks (Zion, Arches), and canyons in Utah. Utah is truly a beautiful state and is a pleasure to drive in.
Boston -> Las Vegas (17.5k points + $5.60)
Las Vegas -> Boston (12.5 points + $5.60)
Ford Mustang GT (16k points + $40)
Mazda 3 (10.5k points + $20)
October 2016: Long Weekend in Tijuana, Mexico (2 flights, 0 points + $0.00)
Flying to Los Angeles to pick up a rental car and going to Tijuana for tacos and tequilas. Gift cards reimbursed by Amex cover the cost of the flights.
Boston -> Los Angeles (0 points + $140)
Los Angeles -> Boston (0 points + $120)
November 2016: Long Weekend in Brazil (3 flights, 95k points + $78.12)
Caldas Novas Country Show in the jungle! First time in my life I’ll be flying business class redeemed as an award ticket. Straight from the jungle to Boston.
Boston -> Sao Paulo (30k points + $5.60)
Sao Paulo -> Brasilia (10k points + $5.60)
Goiania -> Boston (55k points + $66.92)
November 2016: Thanksgiving in Cuba (2 flights, 0 points + $315)
Getting a classic beater from the 50’s, salsa classes, cigars, and mojitos. The price of the flight is so good that it’s not worth using the points.
Montreal -> Varadero (0 points + $170)
Varadero -> Montreal (0 points + $145)
February 2017: Winter in Hawaii (4 flights, 60k points + $22.4)
Visiting Oahu, Hawaii, and Kauai. Not sure what island is best for what, but gotta meet up with Kahunas, do some diving, and find coconuts.
Boston -> Honolulu (22.5k points + $5.60)
Honolulu -> Kona (7.5k points + $5.60)
Kona -> Lihue (7.5k points + $5.60)
Lihue -> Boston (22.5k points + $5.60)
Total: 32 flights, 13 countries, 5 continents, 3 cars (366.5k points + $1071.92)
An obvious question you may have: how did he collect so many points? Well, I signed up for 4 credit cards. Through signup bonuses, regular card use, and extra bonuses I collected 250k points within one year. The other points came from flights (a good number of them happened before a year ago). What’s the face value of all these points? Probably somewhere around $4k. That’s how much you can easily get towards your travels if you play your cards right. Who doesn’t like free stuff?